Mental Illness? or - Salvation                                                               Copyright ©2014 Hazel Gay

Hazel Gay's To Heal the Broken-Hearted (Chronicle of a woman's 18 year journey through "mental illness" to healing, wholeness and transformation.)
Chapter 12 All quotes used with written permission.

                                “…..non-preconception is the pre-condition to discovery; when you  
                              do not preconceive you go about finding out…you begin to explore! 
                               I believe it is the spirit of the artist, not the dogma of the trained 
                               and credential laden professional, who will lead the way through the darkness. 
                               The artist is the first to know even that there is a darkness.”

                                                   Walkenstein, Eileen.   Don’t Shrink to Fit!  New York:  Grove Press, Inc. 1975. 

March 1980
         I went to bed last night as usual and woke up to discover I was in middle age.  I need reading glasses and hormones.  When I realized this, I think I felt something akin to amazement, then curiosity.  I’ve never been here before!  What happens next;  what differences will I be able to perceive in my body, my mind?  What will not be changing?  With the cessation of fertility will I become more creative or will there be more energy released for creativity or is there any correlation? 
       I read something once about the stages of life.  I think I skipped one.  For a few months now I’ve seemed to kind of look back on my life with the feeling, “Well, it’s not perfect.  I haven’t done everything I wanted to do;  I haven’t done everything people thought I ‘should’ do, but it’s MINE.  I went to school, had a family, went to New Orleans once.  I know I could survive if I had to.  The last 40 years have been laid down;  they’re recorded;  they’re MINE.  If I died right now I don’t think I would regret it all that much….”            

March 18, 1980    early a.m. dream 
       In Portland; a little girl’s house, has bushes in front that appear to be blooming but on closer inspection they are butterflies.  Out on street, it’s daylight, morning – I’m on way to hospital.  From right hand a butterfly starts emerging, – two shades of green, emerald green on the outer perimeter, light green on the inside, with a silky luminous iridescence.  It looks like a scarf a magician pulls out of a box coming out of my hand which is barely open.  The wings open and are two feet high – it flies; I wake up. 


        Still living with the man who had moved in a year before, I had occasions during this period of reading his mind that seriously bothered him, causing him to exclaim “Stay out of my mind!”   
        I had a new portable radio with CB reception among other things. As we were listening on CB channels, I jokingly told my live-in, “You better watch that thing; it’s liable to start talking to you. The ‘spirits’ might just start talking to you through that thing,” and laughed. He didn’t laugh. 

March 19, 1980
         We went to visit a person from my live-in’s past in Santa Cruz, California, Father Paul, American Catholic ex-bishop, who ran a campground called Santa Vida (Holy Life) Leprechaun Woods.  One of the places we visited was labeled on the tourist map as “Butterfly Trees,” a wintering ground for Monarch butterflies.  Still a few there, they did, indeed, look like blooms on the bushes.  (I remembered fall ’69, in Oklahoma when I happened to be standing outside as the Monarch migration went through; millions of butterflies in a stream going to Mexico, many flying all around me.  I was almost in the middle of it!) 
       Father Paul had never seen me before, knew absolutely nothing about me.  We’d been sitting at his kitchen table talking for maybe ten minutes when he looked at us and said, “I don’t know how either of you are going to take this but there are spirits present with us in this room.  I don’t know who they are but there’s quite a few of them;  they’re interested in what’s going on here for some reason.” 
       A few minutes later when he looked directly at me and said, “I see one spirit standing right behind you,”  to my astonishment, my head fell to the table and I started crying like a dam had burst.  After some discussion he said, “I think it might be your father’s spirit.  I can’t see it clearly enough to describe what it looks like.  You’ve heard of guardian angels, that’s kind of what it is, your helper of some kind.” 
       On Sunday I sang some of my songs at his chapel and he said, “You’re a preacher, that’s what you are.”  He talked about being the instrument through which communication comes from God, from somewhere else, and added, “There’s a sentence in the Bible that says, “‘Many are called but few are chosen.’ You are chosen.” 

       I went back to work at the library four weeks after the surgery.  When I started having trouble sleeping I got Dalmane.  However, they were only 15 mg. capsules.  I had kept 30 mg. on hand but when my live-in seemingly attempted suicide, I had become afraid to keep them.  I knew I could take at least four of the 15 mg. but I was the only one who knew!  Others saw me take four, freaked out, ASSUMED I was overdosing, kept me awake and got rid of the rest of them!  When I got two bottles of wine with the intention of drinking enough to go to sleep, my daughter decided I didn’t need that so did something with it. 
       I gave up.  If “God” wanted me to sleep, I would.  If “God” wanted me to go to a mental hospital, I would.  And so it began.  My mind started to come and go with delusions.  Once again out of the depths rose feelings I had apparently pushed back to the deep recesses.  To my surprise, Jess was still prominent in those depths;  “the doctors” were still there;  something about my father was still there.  Again, I was living with a man I did not love (or respect) and my true feelings forced their way out of the shadows where I had tried to keep them.  Feelings began to surface and submerge, surface and submerge.  Little things helped push me toward a total surfacing of everything that had been submerged since the fall of ’76.  Like being told that I could not buy a marker for my baby’s grave. My ex-husband’s name was on the deed and he was in Oklahoma. I wanted to use MY money to buy a marker for MY baby; I was the only one that had been back to that grave and I was told I couldn’t according to Oregon Law. Like the electric meter coming loose from the side of the house causing the electricity to go off and on occasionally;  the electric man wondering if the vibration of the current going through it had made it loose.  Like Mt. St. Helens blowing only 50 miles away.  It became difficult to omit the possibility of some kind of connection between what was going on with me and a volcano blowing;  not that I caused it, just some kind of connection I couldn’t explain.  (1986 – With no place in our society for synchronicity, it’s difficult for events NOT to fall back into “cause and effect.”) 

        I had many new experiences;  I sent much of my writing to Jess.  (Because Jess had sent me a birthday card in February I had his address in NY at that time.) From that material: 

April 4, 1980
        Completely indulging in the fantasies with the TV – the “fairy tale” quality.  I really believe I’m experiencing the feelings of childhood, the 3 year old omnipotent child.  The sun comes up every morning just to shine on him.  I’m allowing myself to experience those fantasies.  In an adult world it’s extremely difficult… 


(Still on my quest for knowledge of schizophrenia that would help save my family, save the grandchildren…)   
       The child constructed an altar of meaningful things;  a picture postcard written on by my father; a piece of embroidery done by my mother;  the name pin my father gave me, that got stepped on and still shows the glue where I glued it back together.  A lock of my hair from when I was about ten, some of my children’s hair, the handkerchief my father sent me, that I used for the first time to wipe my tears and the cast iron bulldog he gave me.  Other meaningful articles, specific objects, with specific meanings;  a “ritual” for each as it was added to the “altar.”  Candles and the kerosene lamp lit for three nights.  The first night I said every kind of prayer I could think of, to everything and everyone I could think of.  I slept with my grandchildren’s picture over my heart;  the afghan I’d made at Dammasch over me;  the Bible under my pillow – for…protection?  For the first time in my life I had some doubts;  I didn’t know if I was getting into something I shouldn’t be or not and if there WAS anything out there, I wanted no doubt that I had the HIGHEST intentions. Basically, I repeated this procedure for three nights… 
       Sometime during this I suddenly became afraid; for the first time in my life “felt” the established presence of “evil” and threw the Kikuyu carvings out into the front yard that I had used on my altar to represent the desperation of the Mau Mau.   
       One night just after the above ritual, I was lying on the couch listening to an FM radio station and dozing.  Abruptly, the music stopped in the middle of a song;  there was total silence. That woke me up real good.  Then, there was a tone, a single tone, like the tones used in pure tone audiometry.  I opened my eyes.  There were more tones;  I stood up.  At some point I began to”feel” it was a communication from my father;  there was an emotional feel to the tones.  The tones rose and fell, in pitch, in frequency – always pure tones, always understanding, always comforting, saying in effect, “It’s going to be all right.” 
       I do not know if I talked out loud or mentally to whatever was making the tones but I poured out my heart to my daddy and the tones soothed and comforted.  Though there were NO words, the message was getting across to me, “I understand – I know your heart – I know what you’re going through – I know what you’ve been through – you can tell me all about it.  It’s going to be all right.”  And whether it was an auditory hallucination or not, I KNEW what it felt like to be comforted, an experience not in my memory. 
       After reading in Exodus where God talked to Moses and in a Joan of Arc biography, my head began to feel like it was in some kind of fuzzy ball, with no thinking going on that I could call thinking and not that aware of where I was.  Abruptly, I was plopped down into this reality instantaneously as the word “archetypes” went through my mind.  The “fuzzy cloud” disappeared;  my head was suddenly perfectly clear.  I had no idea why that word had come to me;  I didn’t even know what it meant;  I had only seen the word.  But I recognized the feelings Moses and Joan of Arc had felt, and suddenly I knew.  THEY had nothing to do with ME;  only the FEELINGS WERE THE SAME!  In a flash, I lost any confusion I might have had about what I was reading.  I KNEW I simply FELT the same things they had FELT… It was as if the feelings were an “entity” …and – alive. 

                            Jan 2018: I found in Jung, Synchronicity and Human Destiny Ira Progoff 
                           describes the potential for archetypes to become “a living power.”

       Beginning to experience a pervasive “feeling” of wanting to enter a “holy life,” without knowing what to do with it or where to go with it. I somehow knew it didn’t mean getting caught up in “roles,” but I couldn’t shake it off.  (This would recur off and on through the coming years.) 

From notes written at that time:

        When my brother and I used to wrestle, he’d pin my arm behind my back applying pressure to make me say “Uncle.”  I NEVER said uncle.  There was like a button I could push in my head. I think he could have broken my arm and I still wouldn’t have said uncle;  he always turned me loose.  Jess told me once, “I think it would take a pretty big man to measure up to the ideal you have of your father.” Guess what!  I think I said “Uncle” and met that “Man.”  (In reference to what was going on with my mind – it not being under my conscious control.) 
       I’m reminded of my sister and me, remodeling our houses.  We’re the ones who figure out everything, including materials list, make detailed plans, and I stand there holding the book reading the instructions and explaining them to the man.  “Connect this wire to that wire, no, not that one, the other one.”  We can figure out how to fix nearly anything!  It makes me so goddamned mad because I don’t have the physical strength to loosen all those bolts and nuts! If God is really a male, maybe Mrs. God is standing there holding the book reading the instructions and He hasn’t been listening cause He thought He knew everything already. 
       Maybe all I need right now is some “chicken soup.”  I’ll have to resort to going to the store and buying a can of Campbell’s… 
       I’ve never had so much fun in my life! 
       And my head cleared up some more.  Maybe I should take a picture of my symbols before I clear the dresser? 

Easter Sunday    4:15 a.m. 
       Is this a “time warp” I’m in?  Some kind of weird perception of time, a confusion of time – extremely difficult.  Believing my feeling of being watched is my “spirits” watching me helps. If somehow I activated (or something else activated) something deeper in my brain, this must be how it feels; it’s now and future kind of all at once but I’m handling it somehow.  I don’t seem to have that much sense of past, at least right now.  I feel like, the main feature will have started before the audience gets there… 
       It’s time to stop now. I’m seeing triple meanings. 
       I don’t know how long it will be before I will be able to sing…Next song I’m learning is “The Gambler”… 


         In an attempt to escape what had become an intolerable home situation once again, a lot of traumatic things happened and I wound up at the State Hospital at Salem where I’d never been before and where I was given no medication of any kind.  My live-in made the doctor believe it was against my religion!  I learned I came around just as fast without medication as I did with it;  it made no difference. 

Oregon State Hospital, Ward 35-A 
April 1980           
       Old habits are hard to break.  If you don’t want my communications all you have to do is return to sender. 
       By the time I went to the court hearing yesterday, the two psychiatrists on the panel said I was obviously not psychotic but after I read a page I’d written, the judge ordered me to stay for 45 days saying, “If you have somewhere to go where you can stay with someone who can take care of you, you can go.  I’ve never seen anyone who needs a rest as much as you.” Needless to say, there was no one and no place. 
       I’ve brought this outside and as I looked up, it occurred to me.  I’m talking to Jess under a blossoming apple tree, almost like old times. 
        During the symbolic stage I went through before winding up here, I found an old Stelazine bottle my son had used for an assortment of screws.  I stuck a needle into my finger and drew enough of my blood to make a big X on that label. 
       In here we are given a pill, to numb the feelings, to numb the pain, to keep us out of touch with our God.   

(Karen Armstrong in A History of God says a cerebral religion is of
no use in times of trouble, that only a mystical religion is helpful.) 

       A blind girl who plays Beethoven;  her minister was coming to hear her play. As I sat listening to some of the most beautiful music the world has ever known, I suddenly saw that music room for what it was;  filth, garbage, 4 letter words written on the wall, coffee stains where someone had thrown it, maybe when a nurse told someone who was pouring his heart out in music to get out of the room so it could be locked;  the door to the music room being locked and unlocked by inconsistent staff rules, not by needs of patients.  With “Moonlight Sonata” echoing in my soul, I suddenly realized the windows were so dirty I could not see clearly the tree across the street.  There was even a hole in one, like a bullet hole. 


        That hospital stay was unique.  My therapy group was called the “Hempstead Group,” which gave me problems since Jess was living in Hempstead, New York.  I found out in group a Vietnam Vet could have Delayed Stress Syndrome (That became PTSD) but I couldn’t;   he could remember his trauma but I couldn’t.  I was supposed to simply forget mine (“But it happened so long ago!”) I was supposed to go on to bigger and better things and they didn’t beat around the bush in letting me know it. 
       One morning I had what might be called an excess of nervous energy and was chattering away.  One of the new male patients came over, looked down at me sitting on a chair and abruptly said, “I want to give you a gift.”  Looking up at this somewhat disheveled 6’2″ “mental patient” who had nothing in his hands, I decided I’d better go along with it and said, “OK.”  He held out both hands, palms toward me, closed his eyes and within three seconds I started feeling “different;” as if all that nervous energy was being drained from me.  I became very still;  my chattering ceased;  the inside of me was suddenly very calm.  He let his hands drop and walked away;  I had nothing left to say.  Later I started to show another person what he had done and before I could tell him about the effect it had on me he asked, “What are you doing to me?” for I had the same effect on him.  (I played around with this for awhile, coming up with some unusual results sometimes.) 
        My doctor decided to send me to Dammasch saying, “Maybe they can do something with you up there.”  I had been quite verbal in objecting to him, his methods, his nurse and whatever else crossed my mind.  That decision just about scared the holy you know what out of me.  That afternoon I heard the tones on my radio a second time, very briefly, just before leaving for Dammasch.

        Very quickly I told the doctor at Dammasch I would take Lithium so they wouldn’t give me Stelazine.  I didn’t know why the young man I saw only a few minutes the first day made such a point of asking me if I saw anything different from the last time I’d been there.  Yes, there were shower curtains on the showers.  The partitions between the toilets had been built up so one could no longer look over them. 

       A few days after getting out of the hospital, I went back to work at the library.

August 1980
        I had a court appearance because of my harrowing experience in April during a trip I made to the beach.  Going to court and receiving a 90 day mandatory driving license suspension was devastating;  I was a CRIMINAL! 
       Immediately after that a young girl, obviously psychotic, started coming to the library, day after day.  Mail came to the library from her, a subscription card from inside a magazine, green stamps for postage, (The post office delivered it to us!)  with handwritten words in her own cryptic code, arriving on MY annual day to do mail!  As this ended, a friend disappeared from a downtown hotel that had been condemned and was being closed down.  A genteel little lady, labeled manic depressive, at the age of 63 she had been in and out of Dammasch.  She’d had years of not finding a stable home situation;  this had been her first in many years.  Her disappearance made the papers. 
       While she was missing I was checking in books at the library one day when I suddenly felt Dottie there with me.  I became immobilized a few seconds;  I felt a heavy weight.  I thought, “They’re going to find Dottie dead.”  Moving the book I had been working on from the stack, I opened the next one.  The author’s last name was Schrieber, my missing friend’s last name.  I felt a chill of cold air go past behind me… 
       Two weeks after her disappearance she was found dead, under a bush in the downtown park blocks.  (Two years later I would write a song about her.) 

August 1980
       I suppose I should precede this with an apology of some sort for all that garbage but since you’re a professional that deals with “weirdoes” I guess I’m not the only one you get garbage from.  As far as the feelings about you I expressed, I don’t know where they came from;  if they were simply a hold-over from previous psychotic delusions/ideas/feelings that somehow seem to have taken a very settled-in position somewhere for before I had gotten out of Dammasch they were gone – or hiding out of sight again? 
       I got out of Dammasch May 16, went back to work May 21;  they had given me leave of absence.  Altogether, I’ve had three months leave this year.  I’ve been working every day since I got home.  Just after I got home my mother wrote my daughter here that she knew I was an alcoholic!  She also called my daughter and ex-husband in Oklahoma to tell them she knew I was an alcoholic;  that was really the reason I was going to hospitals!!! 
       The reason I’m writing may surprise you.  I’m at a place where I feel like I’m worn out.   One of the benefits of this job is disability insurance.  I rejected it in May but now?? It seems to me the only way I’m going to make it is put my musical equipment in my car and leave – see new places, new people.  I don’t care what kind of label, there must be something, like battle fatigue, shell shock…something.  If there is nothing you can or will do, can you at least give me the name of someone here who can, who won’t repeat the past? 
       Two friends are concerned about me, saying, “But you have so much to offer the world.” 
How about if I get something from the world for a change!  I don’t feel I have anymore to give anybody;  I don’t have the strength… 
       One more day – one more day – is it worth it to keep fighting?  I am leaving the library – Oregon – for a while – disability or no disability. 
       I’ll make a tape for you tomorrow.  I’m done with fantasies and dreams.  I am concerned enough about how I feel that if I don’t make a tape, you may never hear my songs, your song. 
       Maybe just a year…to rest…write a song if it came to me…maybe sell shirts at Mendocino….just to rest…. 


        Though the note I received from Jess that fall was to be the last communication I received from him, I continued sending him letters once or twice a year through his father never knowing if he got them or not, not definitely losing contact till the middle of ’84.  (I had bought some of my musical equipment from his father at his store.)